Flashback to February 22, 2011. The Warriors hosted Boston Celtics at Oracle Arena. The Celtics at the time were 41-14, the Warriors 26-30. An expected loss to say the least and another lost season was well in the making.
The Celtics were getting ready in the tunnel, Ray Allen was getting the troops ready. I would expect the likes of Kevin Garnett or Paul Pierce to be doing the warm-up speech, but it didn’t matter that night. It was that night where Allen uttered the most candid statement I’ve heard ever him say:
“This team right here, they don’t belong on the same floor with us, and you all know that.”
(Grainy footage of the speech can be found here)
What may seem like standard pre-game hoop speak actually was surprising truth. That Warriors team had no business being on the same court as that Celtics team. A team with championship aspirations, three future Hall of Famers and 17 NBA titles under their belt has no business for a mid-season scrimmage.
Flash-forward to December 12, 2012. The Warriors were visiting the defending champion Miami Heat. The Warriors were 14-7, the Heat 14-5. To say the Warriors start to the season was unexpected would be a gross understatement.
After a David Lee flagrant foul, a Klay Thompson shooting bonanza, a Dwyane Wade eye poke, a LeBron James MVP-y barrage and one Draymond Green backdoor cut later and you have the most impressive and important win this franchise has seen since the 2007 playoffs.
While the Warriors have had plenty of spectacular regular season wins since 2007 (last year’s overtime Heat victory anyone?), this win is so much more. This isn’t a useless win in an otherwise lottery-bound campaign. This isn’t a futile Warriors squad that got lucky one night. This isn’t a dormant franchise with a sheer lack of leadership on and off the court.
As hard as it may be to grasp, it’s quickly becoming an undeniable fact: this Warriors team is really, absolutely, can’t believe this is happening…good.
This is much more than a nice slew of victories, the makeup of this team (and what’s to come) gives off the sense that this really could be the start of something special. Cliché? Sure, but how else would you describe what’s happening?
This is no longer just a good story, this is an NBA awakening.
Up until the Miami win the Warriors were nothing more than a nice little story overshadowed by the demise of the Lakers (#LOLakers), the resurgence of the New York Knicks (shocking) and the greatness of LeBron James (valid).
The lesson tonight: if you beat the world champions in the midst of a 5-0 road trip and 15-7 start you’ll start to earn some respect around the league.
“We’re going to continue building on this,” Klay Thompson said after the Miami win, “This is a special win. We haven’t played the best competition the last few games but with the Miami Heat, we’re showing people we’re going to bring it every night. We have a chance to be special.”
The Warriors led off Sportscenter, had trending topics on Twitter and will most certainly make the starting rounds on the usual suspects (First Take, Around the Horn, Pardon the Interruption) during the week. They deserve the shine.
So what’s next?
Whether it’s the MVP play of Stephen Curry, the offensive output from David Lee, the improvement of Klay Thompson, the maturity from the rookies, the veteran leadership of Jarrett Jack or the Sixth Man of the Year candidate in Carl Landry, this Warriors team has all the pieces to sustain this success.
While everyone is fascinating over the 15-7 start, their two potential (gasp!) All-Stars and potential coach of the year candidate; there’s still 60 games left to be played. The NBA awakening of this franchise has to continue.
The Warriors have two games left on this road trip: Friday in Orlando and Saturday in Atlanta. Two winnable games, two teams the Warriors should (still getting use to saying that) win, even if the last game is off a back to back. Am I saying a 7-0 roadie is possible? Yes. Is it probable? I ask you this: is anything not probable with this team right now?
With the holiday season here, the Warriors have certainly gives fans an early Christmas gift. ‘Twas the night in Miami where the feel good story of the NBA became a very real proclamation.
Let’s hope the gift keeps on giving.